Our City has been recognized by the Virginia Municipal League for its environmental stewardship efforts. We are making progress on environmental issues, but we need to do much more.
About half of our City is in the Hazel Run watershed, which earned a “D” grade overall on the Rappahannock River 2018 Report Card, and an “F” grade for Land Use.
These disappointing grades are related to the prevalence of paved non-porous surfaces in our City along with insufficient open-space protections when land is developed or re-developed. Adequate tree cover, besides being beautiful, helps reduce environmental problems such as storm water runoff, river sedimentation, and pollution.
Fortunately, three factors bode well for our local environment.
First, our City ranks high in community engagement when it comes to the Rappahannock River and the environment in general. People love our river, parks, and trees.
Second, using “form-based code” principles in our Small Area Plans can, if properly executed, encourage re-development and adaptive reuse that is kinder on the environment. By focusing less on the automobile and more on livability, our City will have more open spaces, landscaping and tree canopies, walk-ability, trails, and reduced paved surfaces.
Third, the City is committed to the Clean Energy Resolution passed by City Council in December 2019. I worked with Fossil Free Fredericksburg to achieve this success, encouraging City leaders to commit to achieving 100% renewable energy community-wide by 2050, which the resolution does. We also advocated for the City to create a full-time position for a sustainability director to oversee the City’s efforts and progress toward reaching the goals of the resolution. Today, the City is hiring a Sustainability Coordinator in the Department of Public Works who will be responsible for, among other things, making that happen.
I also worked with Friends of the Rappahannock to add more access points in the river’s headwaters, and I continue to be active with local businesses to find their own ingenious ways to help the environment. On the Architectural Review Board, I had the pleasure of voting in favor of several rooftop solar installations on houses in the Historic District, and I helped rewrite the Historic District Guidelines to encourage more environmentally friendly rehabilitation and new construction projects.
The environmental challenges are immense. Progress is being made, but we need to do more – more quickly and more decisively. How we deal with these challenges will affect the attractiveness, livability, and health of our City for generations to come. In a City that is proud of its river, parks, and open spaces, we must apply 21st Century solutions. It’s time.